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1939 Gibson L-5 Premiere, Natural Finish
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Serial #: EA-5424 FON#: 459E-2
Body size at lower bout: 17". Scale length: 25 1/2" Nut Width: 1 11/16" Neck depth: .95/1.03, 1st/10th frets
Materials: Deeply figured solid bookmatched bubble maple back and sides; handcarved bookmatched solid spruce top; five piece flame maple neck with walnut centerstripes; quintuple bound solid ebony fingerboard with block mother of pearl inlay and pointed finial; quintuple bound peghead and body with bound f-holes; solid bone nut.
Hardware: Compensated adjustable Brazilian rosewood bridge with inlaid foot; engraved gold L-5 tailpiece; Grover Imperial tuners; older vintage correct bound tortoise pickguard; Armstrong floating humbucking pickup with thumbwheel volume and tone controls; endpin jack.
Notes: Just fifteen pioneering instruments opened the modern era of the archtop guitar. And this is one of them.
1939 was a pivotal year for the legendary Gibson L-5. Its 'Premiere' model was the first truly modern archtop guitar, with its groundbreaking Venetian cutaway greatly enhancing access to the upper fingerboard. That same year, Gibson formally introduced the natural finish, and returned the model to its original parallel bracing pattern, for increased projection and cutting power. By the end of '39, Gibson had shipped its first L-5 Premiere models, with a production of a mere 15 examples in the new blonde finish. Premium priced over the standard L-5, the new cutaway guitars were produced in vanishingly small numbers, before production ceased altogether during WWII.
Our good friend Andre Duchossoir has confirmed that this historic instrument was shipped on October 13th, 1939, to Charles Parker, presumably the owner of Parker Music in Houston, TX, a firm that operated there for over a century. The second in its batch of 10, this guitar is one of the first three L-5PN models shipped from the factory. Earlier than any now recorded in the Prewar L-5 database, this remarkable guitar could well be the oldest surviving example of the model known to date.
Carved of deeply figured bubble maple in the back and sides, the guitar has a vivid tiger maple neck, and a soundboard hand graduated of old-growth spruce, now aged to a deep amber hue. The Brazilian rosewood bridge is inlaid with pearl wedges in the style of the Super 400, and the engraved tailpiece and Grover Imperial tuners look to have been installed sometime within the last half century.
Well maintained, the instrument shows some scattered lacquer nicks and checking on the soundboard, but appears largely free of cracks, buckle, thumb, or fingerboard wear. The multi-ply binding appears original and tight to the body, and the original finish is preserved under a light overspray of vintage style nitrocellulose lacquer. At just 6lb, 10oz, the guitar is well balanced, with a finely carved soundboard with hand bound f-holes.
To facilitate pickup installation, the fingerboard extension has been shimmed in height and the neck reset to contemporary specifications, with excellent bridge height for optimum acoustic response and smooth, low action. The gently rounded medium 'C' neck feels quite modern in profile, with recent pro fretwork and a fresh high-precision setup. The finely aged tonewood and parallel bracing offer a voice that is distinctly clear and open, with excellent balance and projection, and sparkling natural reverb in the upper register.
A Kent Armstrong floating humbucker is attached, for smooth, accurate amplification, with thumbwheel volume and tone controls and an endpin jack. Combining prewar performance with modern playability, this groundbreaking guitar is the rarest of finds find for the contemporary player and collector alike. One only: call now.
Setup: Trussrod tension and neck relief adjusted; bridge height adjusted; bridge compensation strobe tuned; string slots at nut and bridge inspected and recut as necessary; bridge wheels and tuners lubricated; fingerboard and bridge oiled; body and neck cleaned and hand polished. This instrument is strung with medium gauge nickel roundwound strings, and will accommodate lighter or heavier gauge strings, according to preference. String action is set at 4/64" to 5/64" at the 12th fret, with moderate relief for vigorous acoustic playing. The action may be lowered or raised to your requirements with the adjustable bridge.
Case: Deluxe recent arched brown plush lined hardshell case.